Yin yoga is becoming ever more popular. It seems to be something the yoga world has been waiting for – the perfect complement to the sweaty, fast vinyasa classes that most of us love. I was introduced to yin yoga in Bali in 2013 and since then I’ve fallen in love with the practice.

Practicing yin yoga has allowed me to deepen my overall yoga practice in so many ways. On a physical level I have gained flexibility in my spine and backbends became easier. I have gained a greater awareness for my body, feeling into my edge and investigating sensations. My meditation practice definitely improved. But most of all I feel like yin yoga has helped me to connect body and mind and feel the flow of energy – chi – in a much deeper and profound way. After a yin yoga class I feel like every cell of my body is alive – it’s an awesome feeling and I urge you to discover it for yourself.

What is Yin Yoga and what are the benefits?

Initially called “Taoist” yoga, yin yoga is a style of yoga that targets the deep connective tissues of the body and the fascia that covers the body. Yin Yoga is based on the Taoist concept of yin and yang, opposite and complementary principles in nature. Yin is the stable, unmoving, hidden aspect of things; yang is the changing, moving, revealing aspect. In the body, we call the relatively stiff connective tissues (tendons, ligaments, fascia) yin, and the more mobile and pliable muscles and blood yang.

Yin yoga is a gentle and passive style of yoga where we exercise the yin tissues of our body. A yin yoga class usually consists of a series of long-held, passive floor poses that mainly work the lower part of the body – the spine, hips and thighs. These areas are especially rich in connective tissues. The poses are held for up to five minutes, sometimes longer.

The anatomical aim of these yin poses is to gently stress the connective tissue around the joints and bones, specifically of our hips and lower back. By gently stretching the connective tissue through holding a yin pose for a long time, the body will respond by making them a little bit longer and stronger. Over time, the yin practice can increase range of movement in joints, produce more synovial fluid for the spine and joint capsules, decompress and provide more space in-between vertebrae.

Thus yin yoga can help to open and release the tightest places in our bodies – connective tissue, joints ligaments and tendons – which can become tight and restricted through injuries, bad postural habits and emotional stress.

On an energy level we are freeing the chi flow in the body. This enlivens the body and mind and balances the internal organs. Improved flow of chi is hypothesized to improve organ health, immunity, and emotional well-being.

Yin Yoga is also a gateway to meditation and mindfulness. By sitting still and focusing on the breath and the body in a stretch we practice mindfulness. Over time, it will become easier to sit still and relax with awareness and presence, this is meditation.

Yin Yoga Pose – Butterfly

Here is an example of a yin yoga pose that will help you explore this practice and its benefits.

Begin by sitting on the floor with your legs extended in front of you and your spine upright. Now bend your knees and bring the soles of your feet together with your hands on your ankles. Move your feet forward so that your legs form a diamond shape. As your knees drop out to the side start to bend forward from the hips until you come to your first edge, where you feel sensations in your body but are also able to hold the pose for a longer time. Allow your head to rest into the arches of your feet or cupped in your hands. You can also rest on a cushion or bolster. Find stillness in the pose and leave your muscles relaxed. Now rest in the pose, allow your body to open up and let gravity take you deeper. Stay for 3 to 5 minutes. To come out of the pose use your hands to push the floor away and slowly roll up.

If you have problems tilting your pelvic forward, sit on a cushion so you sit a little bit higher. This will allow gravity to draw you forward. You can also keep your back straight or lie down and do the pose with your back on the mat.

Learn More About Yin Yoga

If you want to learn more about yin yoga, here are some books that I recommend:

The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga: The Philosophy and Practice of Yin Yoga – by Bernie Clark

Yin Yoga: Principles and Practice – by Paul Grilley

Insight Yoga – by Sarah Powers